MPs will be given a free vote on a bill to be introduced in January, with the first same sex marriages expected in 2014. In an attempt to placate traditional Conservatives opposed to the plans, the legislation will include a so-called “quadruple lock”, which would make it illegal to for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages and prevent the European Court of Human Rights from intervening. Other religious organisations will be able to opt in as they wish.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller told MPs: “Because the churches of England and Wales have explicitly stated that they do not wish to conduct same-sex marriage, the legislation will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples. That provision recognises and protects the unique and established nature of those churches.”
Government sources expect the legislation to reach the statute books despite the opposition of around 100 Tory MPs, as the measure has the support of approximately 80 per cent of the Labour Party.
As expected the plans do not extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage believes the plans will increase support for his party. He told The Guardian: “David Cameron’s proposal has the potential to rip apart the traditional rural Tory vote. While Ukip wholly respects the rights of gay people to have civil partnerships, we feel the prime minister’s proposals will present an affront to millions of people in this country for whom this will be the final straw.”